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Focus Shifting Closer to Home at L.A. Textile Show

Amid pressure from a weak dollar and rising costs, textile companies at next week's Los Angeles International Textile Show are looking to increase their West Coast business with metallic coatings, bright colors, textured fabrics and more stylish,...

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LOS ANGELES — Amid pressure from a weak dollar and rising costs, textile companies at next week’s Los Angeles International Textile Show are looking to increase their West Coast business with metallic coatings, bright colors, textured fabrics and more stylish, eco-friendly offerings.

Exhibitors will highlight textiles and prints for spring-summer 2009 at the California Market Center April 14 to 16, emphasizing quality and innovation to stand apart from lower-priced competitors.

Absolut Textiles, for example, blends metallics in organza and mixes wool with silk, hemp, polyamide and polyester to yield lighter-weight fabrics, and D&N Textiles offers mesh accentuated with a dot print and floral embroidery. Crawford Textile Corp., a North Carolina mill that has been in business for more than three decades, doubled its organic cotton offerings — available in novel styles such as thermal knits and French terry as well as standard jersey — to make up half the line.

“Our advantage is our emphasis on…the quality of the fabric,” said Tim Roncone, Crawford’s Los Angeles-based sales representative. “If we try to chase price, I feel like everybody else in town.”

Nevertheless, textile exhibitors said they are pursuing orders late in the season. Michael Shapiro, president of D&N in Beverly Hills, will display fabrics from the holiday collection and spring lineup. Since retailers are waiting as long as they can to place orders for apparel collections, manufacturers are also delaying their orders for fabrics toward the end of a selling season, he noted.

“The stores are conservative now because the consumer dollars aren’t where they were,” Shapiro said.

Because of the uncertain economy, textile vendors said price is one of their biggest concerns, along with escalating competition from improving factories in China and India. To help offset rising costs, fabric firms are providing concessions to customers. Epic Textiles Inc., based in Vernon, Calif., offers to consolidate shipments for customers from the mills it represents in Japan and Italy into one delivery. The company has also lowered the minimum yardage for eco-friendly, yarn-dyed fabrics and knits to 300 from 1,000.

Schoeller Textil USA, the Seattle-based branch of the Swiss textile maker that has more than 100 years of experience and estimates reaching $100 million in sales by 2010, is making adjustments to deal with the weakness of the dollar.

This story first appeared in the April 8, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It’s a tough time for us in North America,” said West Coast sales manager Cricket Griesman, who will exhibit metal alloy fibers, silk and cashmere at the fair for the first time in a bid to expand business with luxury lifestyle brands in the Golden State.

“We’re looking to California as the next big opportunity on the West Coast,” Griesman said.

Environmentally sustainable fabrics also yield new sales opportunities. Eastern Warmth Inc., a Newark, Calif.-based company that markets recycled polyester, hemp, bamboo and organic cotton made in China and India, is a first-time exhibitor. Interest in eco-friendly materials has helped business boom at Eastern Warmth in the last three years. Nina Ganguly, Eastern Warmth’s account manager, said even accessories designers have requested organic fabrics to sew into handbag linings.

At Enviro Fabrics, a Los Angeles textile converter, the trend for eco-friendly fabrics dovetails with the popularity of garment dyeing in a dye-gain print. The subtle pattern, printed on organic cotton jersey, emerges only after the clothing is dyed. Other offerings in Enviro Fabrics’ supply of sustainable materials include a thermal knit made of recycled polyester and organic cotton with a burnout treatment, as well as a slubby stripe produced from combining recycled polyester and organic cotton yarn with a bamboo and cotton blend.

Another emerging trend is lightweight fabrics. In addition to meeting the demand for whispery thin clothing that can be layered, the lighter weight helps reduce the price of the fabric and the cost of transporting the material from the mills.

“Price is determined by the weight,” said Crawford’s Roncone.

As for color, the primary hues of red and blue will stand out from the neutral palette and metallic tints that continue to be popular. Conne Crebbin, a sales representative at Epic Textiles, noticed a resurgence of heather dyes in yellow, cherry and green. In addition, laser-cutting, embroidery and waffle weaves add texture to an otherwise basic fabric.

“This year, more than ever, [customers] are looking for dimensions and treatments done to the fabric,” she said.

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